The Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are still some 13 million kilometers (8 million miles) away from Mars today, but that distance is closing fast as the mission heads for a landing a week from now on February 18th. Touchdown is scheduled for approximately 3:55 p.m. EST.

NASA has a full schedule to showcase the landing — and you can even ask questions of the mission team using social media: NASA TV schedule.

The Perseverance mission has come more than 450 million kilometers, flying from Earth to Mars at a time when the two planets are at an optimal distance from each other. Track the spacecraft's flight to Mars.

Two other spacecraft launched during that same window, the United Arab Emirates' Hope and the Chinese Tianwen 1 missions. Hope successfully entered orbit around Mars on February 9th, and Tianwen 1 did the same one day later.

Perseverance route
Illustration of the route Perseverance took to the Red Planet, including several trajectory correction maneuvers (TCMs) to adjust its flight path.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

The Perseverance mission is heading for a landing in Jezero Crater, which scientists think was once flooded with water some 3.5 billion years ago. The rover will enable scientists to study the clay minerals that water once carried along the river and into the crater. More importantly, for the first time, NASA will seek not just water but signs of past life on Mars.

Biosignatures could come in many forms, but first the mission will have to asses the geological context of those markers. For example, if something is found in a rock, the team will first have to understand how and when that rock formed. Not only does the past environment have to habitable, but scientists must also be able to rule out other, abiotic ways of producing signatures that could masquerade as signs of life.

Jezero Crater
Perseverance will land in the ancient river delta that opens into Jezero Crater, shown here.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

To that end, Perseverance carries seven scientific instruments. Of 23 cameras onboard, seven are part of instrument packages, while the others are used for entry, descent, and landing, as well as navigation on the ground. Other packages contain instruments to measure the weather, radar to penetrate the surface, and spectrometers to analyze rock samples. Perseverance will also collect samples for later retrieval.

Perseverance doesn't ride alone. Ingenuity, a technology-demonstrating helicopter, will detach from the rover's undercarriage to explore the surrounding area — and prove flight is possible within the Red Planet's wisp of atmosphere.

Ingenuity helicopter
Artist's concept of Ingenuity
NASA / JPL-Caltech

Read the timeline of Perseverance's final approach and landing as the spacecraft quickly closes in on Mars, and stay tuned for post-coverage landing!

Read a full preview of all three new missions at the Red Planet in Emily Lakdawalla's "Three Missions Head for Mars."


Image of Bill


February 12, 2021 at 8:51 am

Looking forward to a successful landing!
"The Perseverance mission has come more than 450,000 kilometers . . ." That only gets you a little past the moon. Did you mean 450,000,000 km?

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Image of Monica Young

Monica Young

February 12, 2021 at 9:26 am

Why yes I did — the zeroes start to blur together in interplanetary space! Typo is fixed.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Image of LoveToObserve


February 18, 2021 at 5:26 pm

I wonder how to get a message to NASA. All the people I saw (albeit quickly) in that room in the video were white males. When is that going to change, I wonder. It's 2021, for heaven's sake. There must be some eligible women and persons of color who can sit in those chairs?

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Image of Andrew James

Andrew James

February 20, 2021 at 4:46 pm

On the JPL webpage is a picture of the Mission Team. See There seems some diversity of people here, and you can adjudge this better than a "albeit quickly." You can also look on this webpage at their profiles and duties with a little searching. Perhaps they could always do better, but also it is more a reflection in not having as many educational opportunities for careers in this scientific or engineering fields?
I also do accept I might be a poor judge of such things.
Note: I was aware that Indian-American Swati Mohan - the 'Lady with the bindi' - who first announced the landing saying "Touchdown confirmed." She had probably had the most vital role in that room.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

You must be logged in to post a comment.